Political changes in Myanmar 2016Myanmar 2016 political changes
Management of the next stage of Myanmar's policy change
In the last five years Myanmar's transitional period has been all about developing legality. Through the implementation of various policy and economical reform, President Thein Sein confirmed his administration and especially the new policy arrangements established by the 2008 constitutional treaty. Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) now has a strong electoral win in 2015 and a remit to continue the country's policy reform.
Myanmar was desperate when President Thein Sein came to office in March 2011. NLD's choice to postpone the 2010 elections means that the elections were largely seen by the global population as deceit. This new, quasi-civilian regimental government was no different from the old one; it was made up of almost the same people who had just switched from army uniform to civil clothes.
Thein Sein tried to achieve justification through the initiation of peacemaking discussions and the implementation of policies, economics and administration. Reform was more about the 2008 Constitution's liberalisation of politics and the economy than about overall democracy. Nevertheless, they made room for the resuscitation of opposing party-politicians.
Aung San Suu Kyi and her NLD took the chance to enter into legislation policy. Undocumented detainees have been freed. Important reform measures - such as legislation on trade unionism, non-violent demonstrations and FDI - have been put in place. Myanmar's transitions have been internationally recognised. Penalties were lifted and Myanmar became Chairman of ASEAN.
At this stage of Myanmar's transformation, the main issue was what could be done under the current constitution and not what should be done for democratization. While Myanmar is entering the next stage of its NLD-led policy transformation, the emphasis will be on what should be done for MYD.
That means to test the current policy borders. Suu Kyi cannot be elected constitutionally as her two children are foreigners. However, the slippery election win of her faction shows that she is the most favored election for the state. The NLD has been speculated that it could try to evade this ruling by abandoning the Constitutional Treaty, although there are indications that the NLD could oppose this initiative.
The NLD has not yet published its policy, but the delay in the presidential elections until mid-March shows that it is currently conducting backstage talks. There is a critical juncture in the peacemaking processes and the regime needs a sustainable resolution to the continuing tension between Buddhist and Islamic groups.
They will also impact on the way the NLD addresses the next stage of Myanmar's migration. Following the negative failure of the pro-military Union Solidarity and Development Partys ( "USDP") in the 2015 elections, the army has become a de facto opposition partisan. In contrast to the USDP, which had to fight for re-election, the army not only holds a constitutionally guaranteed position in the law and order, but also has the right to oppose any changes to the constitution.
It has already indicated that the army does not plan to break away from the political arena if it is not convinced that the peacemaking is over. Therefore, the management of relations with the armed forces will be vital for the new NLD administration. Ultimately, the NLD's task is to make sure that what needs to be done to get Myanmar on a solid path towards democratisation.
That calls for a thorough balancing between continuing the necessary reforms and the acceptance of the present policy reality that hampers this very programme of change. When the NLD urges a radical policy transformation without taking into account the worries and interests of the army, it will erode this equilibrium and provoking an enemy response from the army. However, the NLD should not overlook the fact that, given its powerful election credentials, there are many other areas in which it can work with the army and other policymakers to implement policy changes - even within the limits of the present constitutional framework.
However, if Myanmar's policy shift is to be permanent and enduring, it is vital that the army support the overhaul. It is only if the army remains involved in the reforms that it will gradually change its own part in the game.